Day One - Arrive in Phuket
In the morning we flew from Singapore to Phuket. On arrival, despite a chaotic atmosphere and a mysterious photo teller, it was straight forward to deal with visas. After navigating the phalanx of bus and taxi hawkers in the terminal, we located the official bus vendor and spent the next hour or so bring driven across the island to Karon Beach.
Our upgraded room in the resort
We had booked an incredibly cheap room deal through Scoopon at Woraburi Phuket Resort and Spa. On arrival, however, there were some problems with our reservation. To apologise, we were upgraded to the best rooms, ground floor, with the back door opening out on the main pool that sat in the middle of the resort.
After settling in, we strolled around Karon beach and found the main street which was a series of travel agents, western restaurants, thai restaurants, optometrists, tuk-tuk drivers and money changers. We found a localish looking restaurant (as local as it can get in such a built up tourist strip) and had a reasonably priced dinner.
Day Two - Karon Beach
In the morning we met with a representative from the travel agency linked with our resort room deal and booked two tours. The price was highish, but we managed to negotiate a "big child" deal and over all, we had the safety of knowing the tour would actually take place.
We spent the morning exploring Karon Beach and the tourist strips to the south. The weather was humid and rain always threatened, but for the most part we stayed dry.
Walking along Karon Beach
All over the beach there were litte crabs which appeared almost translucent in the bright sun. They made small burrows everywhere and would scurry away in droves as we walked along the sand.
Small crabs in the sand
The one major highlight of the day was seeing two scooters almost avoid colliding at an intersection. Luckily, no one was hurt. But the riders certainly weren't happy.
One course from dinner at the resort
We finished the day with a thai dinner at the resort (free with our room!). As we eat we watched the sun set over the beach, feeling like we definitely were on holiday.
Sunset over Karon Beach
Day Three - Phi Phi Island tour
We went on our first tour. The boats were on the other side of the island, and it took an hour or so by bus to get there. The tour took place on a speedboat which was to whisk us around some of the nearby islands.
Our first stop was Bamboo island for snorkelling off the beach. Lots of fish to see and attract with bits of bread. It was a little off putting that ten or so other speed boat tours had also arrived at the beach at the same time, so it was pretty busy. The next stop was Mosquito island, where the sea floor was too dangerous due to anemones, so we all snorkelled off the side of the boat in deepish water. The area was more secluded and the fish a lot more prevalent and interesting.
Snorkelling at Bamboo island
Snorkelling off the boat at Mosquito island
The tour continued with a pass by of Viking Cave, were local people scraped dung off the walls of caves to sell in magical remedies. They also lived in these caves, living out a fairly extreme lifestyle. We continued on to Phi-Phi Island, a resort island, for an underwhelming buffet.
After lunch, we went and saw monkeys. The boat drove right up to them as they clung to small trees on the side of a rocky island. The tour guide (obviously having done this before) attracted one of the monkeys on to the boat with pepsi.
Monkey drinking pepsi
The last stage of the tour was to visit the scenic area used in the movie "The Beach". The first area was a harbour enclosed by high rocks. The water had a very high salt content and you could float easily, and people jumped in from off the boat. The second area, the main attraction, was an island harbour with a beach at its heart, almoat entired enclosed in a tall wall of rock. Every tour seemed to finish the day here and the beach was packed, but there was still room for a swim.
The tour was a good day out, however I had been bitten by substandard local sunscreen (it really isn't as good as in Australia) and had pretty bad sunburn on my back from the snorkelling.
Day Four - Rest Day
We spent the day resting and using the resort facilities. Swimming, pool, table tennis, walking around the tourist strip trying to ignore everyone thinking we need a tuk-tuk or taxi somewhere. We found a cheap fruit smoothie place that we would return to a few times, but nothing much else of note.
Lobster dinner, before
We finished the day with a fresh lobster dinner at one of the localish resturants. We thought since the prices of food and drink were cheaper overall, then we could splurge on something a bit extravagant. The price turned out to be roughly $30AUD, but really, debating the price of lobster is truly a first world only problem.
Day Five - Phang-Nga Bay
Our second tour, again by speedboat, was to Phang-Nga bay, famous for its limestone rock formations.
Limestone rocks in Phang-Nga Bay
We stopped at a few inconsequential islands, but the highlight of the morning was canoeing through the limestone caves. Each canoe had two places with a guide at the back, doing all the rowing and navigating and recommending different rock formations as looking like real world objects such as scooby doo or a piranha.
Canoeing through limestone caves
We were taken (along with several other sets of tourists from other tours), into dark caves where we had to duck rocks protruding down from the ceiling and ignore the chattering of the bats all around us. Some of the smaller caves opened out into large open areas inside hollow islands, enclosed by rock walls with the sun and sky visible above.
Canoeing through limestone caves
After the canoeing, we visited James Bond Island, a famous rock formation for appearing in an old James Bond movie. It was thick with tourists and even had several shops on the main island hawking tourist baubles. The island is not big enough to stay on, so it must be some undertaking to set up and pack up every day.
James Bond Island
For lunch we went to a small town that exists completely on the water. Apparently it had been settled by immigrants who arrived there and just setup shop on the boats. I was initially curious about how they would sustain such a town, until the tour boat swung around to one side and there was a row of small berths, each leading up to a buffet style restaurant. In my cynicism I have now decreed the town "Buffet World".
We finished the tour on Naka Island, a resortish island were they charged you to sit on the beach chairs (how very continental).
Water bird posse
We played with crabs and were surprised by a posse of water birds walking along the beach.
Phad Thai street vendor
Back at Karon Beach, as my stomach had now fully recovered, we decided to try some street food from near the resort. We had the ubiquitous Phad Thai and some flavoured crepes.
Day Six - Phuket Town, Night Market
In the afternoon we caught a local bus (by far, the cheapest way to travel) to Phuket Town on the other side of the island. The rickety bus was slow and could barely make it up hills, but it was cheap and an experience in itself.
We had lunch in a restaurant and had some street food snacks. The prices were substantially lower here than back on the beach tourist strips. After some shopping and some more snacks from the local alternative KFC menu, we started to find a cheap way to get to the Phuket night market.
The price for taxis and tuk-tuk on the island is extremely high compared to the price of everything else, and they often fix the price across vendors. Everyone we asked wouldn't budge on the official price. We walked for about a kilometre asking ever driver we saw until a random car with a couple sitting in the front pulled up next to us and offered us a ride. I quoted our lowball price and they weren't interested and drove off, however a minute later they were back and happy to take us. It was a bit suspicious in that the car was unmarked and as far as we could tell was a private car. But any fears were unfounded as they dropped us off at the night market and pulled in amongst a collection of other private looking cars that were also operating as taxis.
The night market was packed with people and hot due to the humidity. Row after row of small shops selling counterfeit designer clothes, bags, DVDs and various knick knacks. A large part of the market was devoted to food.
Night market stall
Bugs or something
There were many stalls selling food that you would not want to eat, and there were many selling things you would want to eat. We picked several safe looking places and snacked on seafood on a stick and other treats.
Some kind of seafood?
Sweet and baked treats
Day Seven - Going Home
In the morning it began to rain heavily, something which we had largely avoided on the trip.
View from the back door of our room
We caught the resort courtesy bus to Patong Beach. Patong is much more built up than Karon and has every western convieniance under the sun, including of course, a starbucks.
Our flight home wasn't until midnight, so used the day to relax and sit around. C did a bit of shopping and I did a bit of coffeeing. The english cinema was very cheap, so we passed the afternoon away watching a couple of movies.
One strange thing was at the beginning of each movie, a small montage was played, honouring the royal family of thailand. A screen full of text in thai would appear, and everyone would stand in the cinema to pay homage. I wasn't really sure what to do and if not doing anything would result in some kind of penalty.
We had a thai hot pot with many mushrooms for dinner and then managed to eventually lowball another taxi driver to take us to the airport. The taxi driver was eccentric and entertaining and told us that lowballing was working since it was the low season and it was better to take the lower fare than just wait around for another one. Economics in our favour!
We flew from Phuket to Perth and then Perth back to Brisbane. Our trip home went smoothly, which was lucky because transferring in Perth comes with a certain danger. The international and domestic terminals are quite a distance from each other. There is a free transfer bus between them, but it is very irregular and a taxi trip between the two terminals is very costly. Luckily for us, the transfer bus was at the right time and we made it easily.